Jack pine

Last updated on January 25, 2024

Jack pine (Pj) - Pinus banksiana

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Geographic range and ecological amplitudes


Jack pine is a small- to medium-sized (rarely >30m tall), evergreen, boreal conifer, with a sparse, variable crown and spreading branches at maturity. It is the most widely distributed pine species in Canada, and an important timber species for pulp and lumber in central and eastern Canada.

Geographic range 

Geographic element:
Eastern North American/mainly Central and Atlantic and marginally Cordilleran

Distribution in Western North America:
(north) and central in the Cordilleran region

Ecological amplitudes

Climatic amplitude:

subarctic - montane boreal - cool temperate

Orographic amplitude:


Occurrence in biogeoclimatic zones:
(northeastern BWBS)

Edaphic amplitude

Jack pine

Range of soil moisture regimes:
very dry - moderately dry - slightly dry - (fresh)

Range of soil nutrient regimes:
very poor - poor - medium; psammophyte, oxylophyte

Jack pine grows best on acid soils, typically in high quartz-sands where calcium and magnesium are supplied in very small quantities; thus, it could be considered a psammophyte and oxylophyte. Jack pine does not grow on alkaline soils and grows poorly on calcium-rich soils. In contrast to lodgepole pine, jack pine does not grow in acid bogs.


Tolerances and damaging agents

Root system characteristics

Jack pine develops a taproot as a seedling and maintains it to maturity. In deep, well-drained soils the roots may penetrate below 270cm. The bulk of the roots consist of laterals confined largely to the upper 46cm of the soil. Roots of jack pine are associated with both ecto- and endo-mycorrhizae.


Tolerance to Tolerance class Comments
low light L partial shade may be beneficial in the establishment period
frost H frequent in subarctic climates
heat H frequent on insolated sites
water deficit H tolerates severely water-deficient sites
water surplus L absent on waterlogged sites; may tolerate a short-term inundation
nutrient (mainly N) deficiency H very frequent on very poor and poor sites


Damaging agents

Damaging agent Resistance class Comments
snow L low resistance and resilience, results in poor crown form
wind H firmly rooted


  Risk class  
fire H fires are frequent in the northern boreal forest
insect H jack pine budworm and white pine weevil
fungi M western gall rust; root and butt rots not a major concern (e.g., red ring rot and Armillaria root disease)

 Associated tree species and successional role

In British Columbia, jack pine grows in even-aged, post-fire forests in pure or mixed-species stands. It is present in early and intermediate stages of secondary succession on fire-disturbed sites.

Associated tree species
tree species
Occurance class Major area of occurance
white spruce (and hybrids) L northeastern BWBS
black spruce L northeastern BWBS


Silvical characteristics

Characteristic Interpretive class Comments
reproduction capacity H cone production at an age of <10 years
seed dissemination capacity L seed dispersion <100m from the parent tree; Predominantly serotinous cones which open when the temperature is >27 °C
potential for natural regeneration in low light L practically nil; a shade-intolerant species
potential for natural regeneration in the open H especially after wildfires
potential initial growth rate (<5 years) H about 5cm in the first growing season, up to 90cm in the fifth growing season
response of advance regeneration to release na advance regeneration does not develop in the absence of adequate light and seedbeds
self-pruning capacity in dense stands M dense stands are unusual
crown spatial requirements H typically forms a wide irregular crown
light conditions beneath closed-canopy, mature stands H associated with well-developed understory vegetation
potential productivity M site index functions for B.C. are not available; site index (50 yr @ bh) <20m and timber yields close to 250m3 in 50 years on the most productive sites; growth decline after about 80 years
longevity M <200 years


Genetics and notes


The various environments in which jack pine grows over its wide range have provided ample opportunities for differentiation and natural selection. In British Columbia, it hybridizes with lodgepole pine (P. x murraybanksiana Righter and Stockwell).


Jack pine is one of the least productive North American pines but valuable timber crop species in central and eastern Canada. Rotation periods used for the clearcutting system vary between 40 and 80 years. It was introduced to Europe where its performance was rather disappointing. More detailed silvics information is given by:

Rudolp, T.D. and P.R. Laidly. 1990. Pinus banksiana. Pp. 280-293 in R.M. Burns and B.H. Honkala (technical coordinators) Silvics of North America, Vol. 1. Agri. Handbook 654, USDA For. Serv., Washington, D.C.


Distribution of jack pine
B.C. distribution of jack pine (Pj)

This is the range of the jack pine.

Jack pine
Jack pine outline

This is the general shape and outline of the jack pine.

Typical jack pine
Typical jack pine

Jack pine in May has an abundance of male strombili that will shed pollen in a matter of days.